Remember how exciting Kano once was? The grime pin-up whose banging debut album ‘Home Sweet Home’ shot him into the mainstream and on to every rap and indie turntable in the country? Intelligent, handsome, cool as fuck? Yeah, well he’s gone.
Four tracks in and ‘Bad Boy’’s piping is the first sign that ‘London Town’ is even breathing. Opener ‘The Product Of My Environment’ is a dull drone even before it lumbers inexplicably into a deathly slow-mo section and a cappella rigor mortis jerk. This apparently, is the point. “It sounds like grime, but a little bit slower” remarks the MC on the gruff title track as though it’s something to be proud of. As the third track, the limp cock of a party track ‘Buss It Up’ proves to be as thrilling as your average bout of rapid eye movement, it’s clear that the heavy ghetto pop of ‘P’s & Q’s’ or ‘Typical Me’ isn’t going to be repeated. No, Kano’s left grime, interest and energy behind. Instead he’s squatting in a monochrome mire of embittered gloom.
Yep, ‘Bad Boy’’s Hackney hyphy beats may be the first blast of excitement on here, but it serves as the scene of Kano’s least attractive qualities. “She was dancing on my lap for the P’s/But when we hit the bedroom she was happy to sleep” shrugs the affronted emcee about a stripper who had the impudence not to let him give her, er “dick, dick, dick”. Jeez, life’s rough isn’t it Kano? Sure she’s spent half the night rubbing against your erection for the change you found down the seat of your Baby Bentley, but a man’s got needs and when you buy a stripper champagne you expect some ass right? Ugh.
Kano’s ugly bleating over ‘Bad Boy’’s beautiful beats jar markedly with the pretensions towards social conscience, which litter the rest of ‘London Town’. “I just want to clean up my community” he claims on ‘Feel Free’, while on ‘Fightin’ The Nation’ he “ain’t celebrating shit if I ain’t using my status to make a change” – political posturing which would have more weight without his trouser tantrums.
As his politics fly across the place, so does his quality control. Hands up who thinks that an acoustic grime re-imagining of Junior Murvin’s ‘Police & Thieves’, as seen on ‘Fightin’…’, is actually a good idea? No-one? Kate Nash raises her demographic-broadening head on ‘Me & My Microphone’ but sounds out of place. Damon Albarn’s light touch on ‘Feel Free’ is reminiscent of Lewis Parker’s seminal UK hip-hop album ‘Masquerades & Silhouettes’, but there’s no escaping the creeping dread that Kano is working with Gorillaz off-cuts.
The thing is, Kano is a great emcee. He could rap over the sound of lamb slaughter and it’d be entertaining. But on ‘London Town’ he seems to have lost his sense of fun, decency and pop sensibility.